Status of Women (was Re: Jivanmuktiviveka of Swami Vidyaranya)

Ashish Chandra ramkisno at HOTMAIL.COM
Tue Feb 1 17:41:17 CST 2000

>From: Aravind Krishna <seeksha at HOTMAIL.COM>
>Subject: Re: Jivanmuktiviveka of Swami Vidyaranya
>Date: Tue, 1 Feb 2000 14:59:02 CST
>>Women are also entitled to this renunciation.  The Chaturdhari commentary
>>on the Mahabharat in describing the conversation between Sulabha and
>>Janaka in the Mokshadharma mentions that Sulabha was a bhikshuki (female
>>monk) and indicates that women may renounce before marriage or after the
>>death of their husbands[6] and may hear appropriate shastras dealing with
>>moksha[7].  In the Devatadhikarana of the Brahmasutrabhashya,
>>Shankaracharya has mentioned Vachaknavi as another female renouncer.
>>These instances support the right of Maitreyi the wife of Yajnavalkya of
>>whom she asks[8] in the brhadaranyakopanishad, "Of what use would such
>>wealth be to me if it would not make me immortal?  Tell me whatever you
>>know sir as to what I should do to be free of mortality."[9]
>This clarifies a lot of misnomers on the status of women in your society.
>south, a female almost looks like a sanyAsi with saffron robes and shaved
>head after her husbands death.  But it’s a question if the community really
>imparted the knowledge for such a state to them or just the physical
>renunciation was emphasized. There was no option for a female except to
>up this so-called ‘Atma sanyAsa’, but a man normally could remarry or stay
>like that.
A pious and virtuous woman devoted to her husband is said to literally fall
dead upon hearing the news of her husband's death (eg, Jayadeva's wife was
tested by their queen of this very quality). This queen had lied and said
that Jayadeva (composer of Gita Govinda) had died. Upon hearing this,
Jayadeva's wife (can't remember her name) literally fell dead.

Overcome by such grief (of having lost her husband), a woman would often
take recourse to sati but this was never an injunction. However, should the
woman continue to live the rest of her days as a widow, she was often looked
after by her immediate family. According to Manu Smriti 9.29, a woman
devoted to her husband, being of a calm mind, would join her husband in
svargaloka after her death.

A man was not required to remarry. It was optional. And that too because as
a Grihasta, who has not yet attained the maturity for Sannayas, he still
needed to perform the nitya and naimittika karmas like aupasana etc. This
required that his spouse be present with him. Hence the option. Otherwise,
the man could always take Sannyasa, of an inferior type.

I guess if the man had children to look after, he would often remarry since
he could not take Sannayas and he had to still perform the daily rituals. If
a widowed woman had children to look after, they would be taken care of by
their extended family, jati or the village.

I do have a question. I came across the following post which quoted the
Atharva Veda as saying that widow remarriage was "favoured" in the Atharva
Veda. Maybe someone who has the AV Samhita can look this up.

"O widow ! Move away from the mortal remains of thy husband. You need not
remain a widow. Your brother-in-law is ready to take you as his
wife." (Atharva : 9 : 5 : 27 & 18 : 3 : 2)

Can someone verify whether remarriage is being talked. Manu Smriti is fairly
clear on when a brother-in-law may take his sister-in-law for a wife (MS
9.69 : If the (future) husband of a maiden dies after troth verbally
plighted, her brother-in-law shall wed her according to the following

Manu Smriti 5.160 says that even a sonless woman reaches heaven after her
death if she were always chaste just like the "thousands of Brahamanas who
have attained to svargaloka even though they were unmarried."

Any corrections welcome.

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